Home > For beginners > History of Foreign Exchange > Forex history: Floating exchange rates

Forex history: Floating exchange rates

Free-floating currencies and fixed exchange rates

When major global currencies such as the U.S. dollar are referred to as free floating, it means that their values are independent of the values of other currencies. Value is determined by the supply and demand of the currency and there are no set standards regarding intervention that need to be observed. Free-floating currencies can be traded by any one and are the most popular choice of trading.

Along with computers and technology, capital movements across borders accelerated in the 1980's. This advent extended the market though the United States, Asian and European time zones. New technology made it possible for private investors to enter into a market that had once been dominated by larger institutions and banks. During the 1980's, foreign exchange transactions were around $70 million per day, within just two decades; they had soared to over $1.5 trillion each day and had a speculative volume of almost 95 percent.

Throughout the preceding decades, foreign exchange trading continued to develop into the largest global market in the world. Most countries have removed all restriction on capital flows and have left the market forces free to adjust the foreign exchange rates based up their individual perceived values. But, the practice of using a system of fixed rate exchanges has by no means been completely done away with.

A brand new system of fixed exchange rates was introduced by the EEC in 1979, the European Monetary System. But, this attempt to fix the monetary exchange rates was almost done away with through 1992 and 1993, when economic pressures resulted in devaluations of several weak European currencies. Europe continued to work toward a stable currency by not only fixing them, but by replacing many of their currencies with the Euro beginning in 2001.

The project had become fairly advanced by 1998 and fixed levels of exchange and the final structure were decided. However, a three year period followed in which devaluation candidates could literally be attacked with little risk before the final introduction of the Euro came in this millennium.

The events that occurred in South East Asia toward the end of 1997 increased the relevance of the lack of sustainability that comes with fixed foreign exchange rates. One currency after another became devalued again the U.S. dollar, which left other fixed exchange rates appearing to be very vulnerable, particularly in South America.